GMU Author Event Features Peacebuilding Through Dialogue

On Wednesday, March 20, George Mason University Press hosted an author event celebrating Peacebuilding Through Dialogue, which it recently published in collaboration with the Ikeda Center. On hand to speak were book editor Peter Stearns and chapter contributor Susan Allen. Dr. Stearns is University Professor at Mason, and Dr. Allen is Associate Professor at Mason's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) and director of its Center for Peacemaking Practice. Held at Mason's Fenwick Library, the author event followed up on the book's initial launch, which had been hosted three weeks earlier by S-CAR at Mason's Arlington campus.

After GMU Press director Aaron McCollough welcomed attendees, the Center's Anri Tanabe and Mitch Bogen offered opening comments introducing the Ikeda Center and some of the main ideas found in Daisaku Ikeda's foreword to the volume. During their remarks, Professor Stearns shared themes from his introduction to the volume and Professor Allen shared core ideas from her chapter. Dr. Stearns highlighted the fact that dialogical traditions can be found in every cultural tradition, though its prominence rises and falls depending on historical forces and a given culture or nation's willingness to engage with other cultures and nations, something that rarely happens, for example, during periods of imperialism. He noted that Peacebuilding Through Dialogue captures many of the practices that are prominent during dialogue's current resurgence. Dr. Allen highlighted the wide range of peacemaking dialogue forms and applications, emphasizing that we should resist the temptation to value formal or official high level diplomacy over the diverse informal dialogues engaged in by regular people. She emphasized the importance of the "moral imagination" and the courage required to be open to the experiences of others.

During the Q&A, attendees and panelists alike grappled with the deep divides of our politically and culturally polarized America, with its widespread fear on all sides that engaging with the other will lend legitimacy to positions or factions that somehow don't deserve it. We find ourselves facing a conundrum, said Dr. Stearns, that we will only be able to transcend with leadership from the highest level, which, in his view, is sorely lacking.

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